There isn’t anything remotely Mexican about the decor and design of Frontera Cocina, the new restaurant from Rick Bayless that has opened at Disney Springs. And that just may be the point.
Bayless, the Chicagoland chef who has won no fewer than six James Beard Awards, says his style of Mexican food has “bright flavors” and isn’t heavy because they don’t do much frying. His menu focuses on the Central and Southern regions of Mexico, staying far away from the influences of Tex-Mex or Ameri-Mex, or, heaven forbid, Flori-Mex.
That brightness shows in the decor, as well. More modern, with bright splashes of color — orange, blue and green — walls of windows and shelves of tequilas. No artificially cracked plaster walls showing bare bricks beneath and nary a sombrero hanging on a hook. That alone is refreshing.
Bayless expanded his culinary empire — or frontier, to use one of the translations of the word — from his wildly popular Frontera Grill, which, like all of his other restaurants, is in or around Chicago. (The flagship restaurant is on Clark Street.)
Besides being the first Bayless restaurant in Florida, the Disney Springs location is the first, and only, Frontera Cocina. That may be, in part, because the restaurant is a partnership with the San Angel Group, which also operates the restaurants at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot.